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Naoto Kan

Minister of Finance Naoto Kan was sworn in as the new Prime Minister on June 8, 2010 and later won a September 14, 2010 intra-party DPJ presidential election against former DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa. After a short reprieve following the March 2011 earthquake, Prime Minister Kans popularity continued a downward trend, and he resigned in August 2011.

Prime minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned in June 2010 after losing popular support for reneging on his campaign promise to remove a U.S. military base from Okinawa. Support for the ruling center-left Democratic Party of Japan rose after Mr. Kan took office, but quickly plunged after the new leader proposed doubling the sales tax from five to 10 percent to help reduce the national debt. Prime Minister Kan, who previously held the health and finance portfolios in different governments, had no background in diplomacy. With only a few months in office, he had little time to formulate foreign policy, distracted by Japan's economic woes and the leadership challenge from within his own party.

In September 2010 Kan faced Ichiro Ozawa in the election for DPJ President. Kan promised to create jobs and cut what he said is wasteful government spending. Ichiro Ozawa had called for a government stimulus that he said would give more money directly to Japanese consumers. Kan defeated challenger Ichiro Ozawa, otherwise there would have been three prime ministers in three months. The strong support Ozawa garnered among the party's members of Parliament could mean Kan may not enjoy the legislative clout he needs to tackle Japan's economic woes.

By June 2011 Kan was struggling to contain nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima plant and find ways to pay for rebuilding after the massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Japan's opposition parties submitted no-confidence motion against Kan in a bid to bring down the prime minister due to his unsatisfactory handling of post-quake crisis.

Already Japan's fifth premier in as many years, on 26 August 2011 Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced his resignation as leader of the Democratic Party of Japan. I will step down as head of the party as I promised on June 2,, Kan was quoted as saying at the party meeting. Once the new leader is picked, I will also resign as prime minister. Kan - who came to power in June 2010 - had seen his approval ratings fall to below 20 percent due in part to widespread dissatisfaction with how he was handling the aftermath of the March 11 quake that crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Under Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan served as Deputy Prime Minister; Minister for the National Strategy Bureau; State Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Science and Technology Policy. Naoto Kan is a Lower House member from Tokyo's 18th district. A co-founder of the DPJ, Kan has served twice as the party's president (1998 - 1999 and 2002 - 2004).

He was Health and Welfare Minister in the Hashimoto cabinet (1996), and has served as acting DPJ president. Kan began his career as a patent lawyer and social activist following his graduation from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and was first elected to the lower house as a member of the now defunct Social Democratic Federation in 1980.

Kan rose to prominence in the mid-90's while serving as the LDP's Minister of Health and Welfare. While heading the Ministry, Kan admitted the Ministry was at fault in an HIV-tainted blood scandal and settled a long-standing lawsuit brought by the victims. As Health Minister, he forced bureaucrats in his own ministry to release documents showing the government's failure to prevent the use of HIV-infected blood products for transfusions. This later made him an opinion-poll favorite to run as the DPJ candidate for PM against LDP President Koizumi, but his reputation was subsequently damaged by a scandal over his failure to make payments into the national pension scheme.

Kan was known as a strong advocate of politician-led reforms of the GOJ bureaucracy. Kan and Ichiro Ozawa had what was described as a "tense relationship" and Kan has tried to distance himself from Ozawa following Ozawa's botched attempt to form a grand coalition with the LDP. The two have differences over policies and management style. Kan's double-hatting as Minister of Science and Technology was interesting considering his scientific background (B.S. in physics) and the fact that, in the past, the portfolio has not been handled by prominent politicians.

Kan formerly was a patent attorney engaged in civic movements and consumer advocacy. His main policy focus was the abolition of collusive relationships among politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. His "Kuni no Katachi Kenkyuu Kai" (Shape of the Nation Study Group) parliamentary group stressed the importance of political activities at the grassroots level to reflect the needs of the general public.

He is married with two sons, and lives in western Tokyo. He does not speak English.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2012 20:14:18 ZULU